Sierra Leone: Will President Bio Be Able Pass His Programme Through Parliament?

Julius Maada Bio of the opposition SLPP has been elected president,but was unable to win control of the country’s parliament – the legislature.

So how will he get his programmes and budgets approved, with the defeated APC having a majority, in parliament for the next five years?

What is certain is that the complexion of the new parliament will be a mosaic of party colours, dominated by four political parties: The main opposition All Peoples Congress party (APC), the Coalition for Change (C4C) led by Mr Samuel Sam Sumana, the National Grand Coalition (NGC) party lead by Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, and the ruling SLPP.

On Thursday, 19th April 2018, the parliament of Sierra Leone will open its doors to old and new members of parliament. But they will need to elect a new Speaker of the House. How is this going to work, given the fact that the role of Speaker of Parliament is the most important source of power for a sitting government?

Theoretically, the Speaker could come from the opposition APC with their largest single majority in parliament. But the rules are much more complex.

According to Sheku Lamin Turay – the Senior Public Relations Officer of the Parliament of Sierra Leone, the current Speaker of Parliament – SBB Dumbuya, is still in post until a new Speaker is elected by MPs in the first sitting of Parliament, in accordance with Section 79 (5) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

For a new Speaker to be elected, a vote of not less than two-thirds of all the duly elected MPs, of which there are 132, alongside a total of 14 Paramount Chiefs, will be required.

Sheku Lamin Turay says that, if any of the nominated candidates fails to secure 97 votes, which is two thirds of 146 MPs, after three successive casting of ballots, it will be settled by a fourth option – a simple majority of 50% plus 1 vote, as stated in Section 79 (2) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

Voting for both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House will be done by secret ballots.

Every MP will take and sign an oath of office which will be administered by the Clerk of the House, before they can participate in the election of the Speaker. The Clerk will preside over the election of the Speaker, and the Speaker will likewise preside over the election of the Deputy Speaker.

So how will SLPP get their programmes and budget through parliament?

The main opposition APC will have 68 seats; the ruling SLPP – 49 seats; the C4C – 8 seats; NGC – 4 seats. There will be 3 independent MPs, and 14 Paramount Chiefs, making a grand total of 146 seats in parliament.

The role of Dr Kandeh Yumkella and Sam Sumana’s C4C will be crucial in helping Bio achieve his economic strategy plans. This is what Dr Yumkella said yesterday:

In 2013 the Constitution of Sierra Leone which required those vying for the Speakership to have been retired Judges who had served in both the High and Supreme Courts of Sierra Leone, was amended by an Act of parliament.

The new constitutional requirement is that those seeking to become Speaker must be an MP of at least 40 years old, and had served as an MP for more than 5 years. This requirement applies to current and past MPs. The Deputy Speaker is also elected from among MPs for a period of five years.

But a huge dilemma for the ruling SLPP is that they do not have the majority that should guarantee the election of an SLPP MP as Speaker. According to Sheku Lamin Turay, the Office of the Speaker of the Parliament of Sierra Leone is an extension to the Presidency of Sierra Leone.

In situations where both the President and his Vice President are for any reason indisposed or unable to perform the functions of their offices, then the Speaker shall take the Presidential Oath of Office to be administered by the Chief Justice, and then act as the President of Sierra Leone.



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